An article in the New York Times yesterday presents a grim picture of efforts to get Americans to eat more vegetables. The headline says it all: Told to Eat Its Vegetables, America Orders Fries. It seems that only 26 percent of adult Americans eat vegetables three or more times a day, and fries don’t count! Apparently all of the effort to get us to eat more of these foods for better health has not really paid off. We have not improved at all in the last 10 years.
Reasons people give for not eating vegetables are taste, amount of effort, and cost. These are the same reasons I hear when I talk to people about improving their diets. We know vegetables and fruits are good for us. In fact we have more research supporting why they are good for us than we did 10 years ago. Obviously feeling healthier and living longer without disease are not particularly motivating in this case!
What will it take? I agree that plain vegetables can taste blah if that is the only way they are eaten. There is just so much steamed broccoli any of us can stomach. Still, we don’t really need to completely hide the taste of vegetables with mountains of butter, cheese, and bacon bits. For most people, except possibly the most extreme vegetable haters, vegetables can be enjoyed with just a little bit of thought about simple and interesting preparation. The idea is to enhance the flavor of vegetables, not use them as a vehicle to carry loads of overpowering high calorie flavors!
The excuse about time and inconvenience is just that – an excuse. Yes, you will need to put a little effort into food to stay healthy, but I believe that vegetables can be very easy and quick to prepare well. Roasted vegetables are a perfect example. Just cut up some vegetables you like (my choices: asparagus, red onion, eggplant, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms), put them in a large shallow casserole dish, drizzle a little olive oil, and add salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Make more than you need, because leftovers are great rolled up in a tortilla for lunch. I love a little hummus with it.
Here’s another very low-effort use of vegetables. Steam broccoli, cauliflower, or whatever you like. Then use it to combine with other foods to enhance the vegetable’s flavor. Steamed vegetables may seem boring to you, but mixed with chili or lasagna, they just take on the flavor of the surrounding food.
Finally, I agree that eating lots of fresh produce can get pricey, but how much is your health worth to you? If that is not convincing, how much are your looks worth to you? Americans spend lots of money on medications and cosmetics, not to mention all of the billions of dollars spent each year on dieting. Trust me – fruits and vegetables can improve your looks and your health for less than you probably spend on these items.
So, back to my question – what will it take to get YOU to bump up the amount of vegetables you eat? What is keeping you from getting more vegetables if you are among those who do not eat enough of them regularly? Is it the taste? Is it that the preparation seems like too much effort? Or is it that they cost more than you think you should spend on them? I don’t know if anyone will eat more vegetables after reading this, but a girl can hope.